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Friends With Kids - DVD Review

Friends With Kids

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

IT’S always refreshing when a romantic comedy or drama chooses to look at the genre from a new perspective. Friends With Kids does just that while remaining careful not to tinker too greatly with expected conventions.

Written and directed (as well as starring) Jennifer Westfeldt, the film poses the question: can two friends have a kid without getting married and continue seeing other people without feeling the pressure of biological clocks?

Julie (Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott) are one such couple, lifelong friends who aren’t attracted to each other but who both want kids. Their friends, two married couples (played by Chris O’Dowd and Maya Rudolph and Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig), are struggling to maintain their relationships and raise kids.

So, Julie and Jason take the plunge and have their own child, agreeing to split responsibilities while getting on with their own lives and keeping their friendship intact.

Their friends, meanwhile, look on in disbelief, waiting for the arrangement to fail while questioning their own lives in the process.

Admittedly, you can pretty much guess where Westfeldt’s film is ultimately heading but it takes some interesting routes along the way and is both funny when it wants to be and emotionally engaging throughout.

It’s also not afraid to depict its characters with flaws. Scott’s Jason, in particular, needs a kick up the backside for most of the film given how slow he is to realise what’s in front of him (thereby threatening to become unlikeable in the process), while Westfeldt isn’t without her own frustrations and neuroses. But crucially you do root for them both.

As their friends, O’Dowd and Rudolph emerge as the most grounded couple and share a nice chemistry (O’Dowd, especially, deftly combines comedy and drama), while Hamm and Wiig are on good form as the couple heading for the most hardship. Hamm and Scott share one of the film’s best confrontations, in which the ethical implications of Jason and Julies’ choice are intelligently aired.

But another of the film’s strengths is the nuanced nature of Westfeldt’s script, which switches between highly amusing and dramatically involving with ease, never trivialising the complexity of the themes or emotions at play while playing to the strengths of its comedic performers when appropriate.

If there are a few problems, they stem from the script’s desire to balance some of its more leftfield and outrageous tendencies with genre conventions, which undermines the film’s final moments somewhat.

It also outstays its welcome by 10 or so minutes, drawing things out a little too much.

But for the most part, this is mature stuff that’s highly enjoyable and very resonant. Westfeldt, for her part, emerges as a hugely talented performer, both in front of and behind the camera, making the prospect of future work a very enticing one indeed.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 107mins
UK Blu-ray and DVD Release: November 12, 2012